Wind Wizard: Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering

Overview

"This thoughtful biography captures the genius of Alan Davenport. Knowing Davenport for some forty years and working with him throughout the design of New York's World Trade Center, I witnessed his ascent as the leader in wind engineering, pioneering that science as we know and depend upon it today. Roberts skillfully tells the engineering story, uncovering fascinating details about Davenport and his work previously unknown to me. The reader emerges having enjoyed an intimate and informative visit with Davenport, one of the most interesting

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Wind Wizard: Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering

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Overview

"This thoughtful biography captures the genius of Alan Davenport. Knowing Davenport for some forty years and working with him throughout the design of New York's World Trade Center, I witnessed his ascent as the leader in wind engineering, pioneering that science as we know and depend upon it today. Roberts skillfully tells the engineering story, uncovering fascinating details about Davenport and his work previously unknown to me. The reader emerges having enjoyed an intimate and informative visit with Davenport, one of the most interesting engineers of our time."—Les Robertson, recipient of the 2011 International Award of Merit in Structural Engineering

"Wind Wizard is a masterpiece of science writing at its best: informative, interesting, and entertaining. I warmly recommend it to anyone interested in the important issues of our time. Roberts is one of our best writers on science and mathematics today."—Amir Aczel, author of Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem

"Roberts has a rare gift for writing about technical matters without oversimplifying (and thus annoying the scientists) or becoming too abstruse (and thus putting off her readers). In Wind Wizard, that admirable balance is deftly used to create a fascinating portrait of a little-known scientist who was a giant in his field—a story which also serves as cautionary tale for a world apparently confronting ever more severe weather."—Marq de Villiers, author of Windswept: The Story of Wind and Weather

"Wind Wizard provides an excellent overview of wind engineering for general readers."—Henry Petroski, author of The Essential Engineer: Why Science Alone Will Not Solve Our Global Problems

"This captivating and compelling biography looks at the life of Alan Davenport, and his significant contributions to wind engineering. Highlighting Davenport's unique approach and technical prowess, this book delves into the behind-the-scenes engineering on major architectural construction projects, such as the Twin Towers. A satisfying read."—Drew Landman, Old Dominion University

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Editorial Reviews

Engineering & Technology - Nick Smith

Roberts' Wind Wizard is a tenaciously gripping and extraordinarily well-told tale of one of the great figures in structural engineering.
From the Publisher
"Wind Wizard is an unlikely gem, a biography of both a man and a field. . . . From now on, I shall refer students and professors alike to Roberts' clear account. . . . Roberts has written a largely equation free book in which technical subtleties such as aeroelasticity and Davenport's statistical description of turbulent buffeting are set out clearly, engagingly and accurately. Her precise, vivid phrases, such as vortices 'pushing and shoving the structure this way and that like a gang of bullies', will enliven my future lectures."—Allan McRobie, Nature

"Recommended. . . . The dramatic undulations and final collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 demonstrated the power of wind and impelled a new discipline of wind engineering. Alan G. Davenport led the field with his meticulous science and innovative wind tunnel. Journalist Roberts delves into Davenport's portfolio of superlatives, which includes the world's tallest bridge, France's Millau Viaduct."—Marissa Fessenden, Scientific American

"Richly drawn. . . . A winning, enlightening investigation into wind engineering and the man who made the airwaves speak."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Roberts's book is more than an account of Davenport's life—it also provides fascinating insights into some of civil engineering's greatest achievements, and closest shaves. She reminds us how much we rely on wind engineering: from portable toilets to space rockets, Davenport tested everything. . . . With climate change making violent storms like Sandy more common, the story of the wind wizard has never been more relevant."—Ben Crystall, New Scientist

"Roberts' Wind Wizard is a tenaciously gripping and extraordinarily well-told tale of one of the great figures in structural engineering."—Nick Smith, Engineering & Technology

"Roberts has done a very good job demonstrating the importance of Davenport's more sophisticated approach to wind and its effects on structures in making many of the world's tall buildings possible."—Choice

Scientific American
Recommended. . . . The dramatic undulations and final collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 demonstrated the power of wind and impelled a new discipline of wind engineering. Alan G. Davenport led the field with his meticulous science and innovative wind tunnel. Journalist Roberts delves into Davenport's portfolio of superlatives, which includes the world's tallest bridge, France's Millau Viaduct.
— Marissa Fessenden
Nature
Wind Wizard is an unlikely gem, a biography of both a man and a field. . . . From now on, I shall refer students and professors alike to Roberts' clear account. . . . Roberts has written a largely equation free book in which technical subtleties such as aeroelasticity and Davenport's statistical description of turbulent buffeting are set out clearly, engagingly and accurately. Her precise, vivid phrases, such as vortices 'pushing and shoving the structure this way and that like a gang of bullies', will enliven my future lectures.
— Allan McRobie
New Scientist
Roberts's book is more than an account of Davenport's life—it also provides fascinating insights into some of civil engineering's greatest achievements, and closest shaves. She reminds us how much we rely on wind engineering: from portable toilets to space rockets, Davenport tested everything. . . . With climate change making violent storms like Sandy more common, the story of the wind wizard has never been more relevant.
— Ben Crystall
Nature - Allan McRobie

Wind Wizard is an unlikely gem, a biography of both a man and a field. . . . From now on, I shall refer students and professors alike to Roberts' clear account. . . . Roberts has written a largely equation free book in which technical subtleties such as aeroelasticity and Davenport's statistical description of turbulent buffeting are set out clearly, engagingly and accurately. Her precise, vivid phrases, such as vortices 'pushing and shoving the structure this way and that like a gang of bullies', will enliven my future lectures.
Scientific American - Marissa Fessenden

Recommended. . . . The dramatic undulations and final collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940 demonstrated the power of wind and impelled a new discipline of wind engineering. Alan G. Davenport led the field with his meticulous science and innovative wind tunnel. Journalist Roberts delves into Davenport's portfolio of superlatives, which includes the world's tallest bridge, France's Millau Viaduct.
New Scientist - Ben Crystall

Roberts's book is more than an account of Davenport's life--it also provides fascinating insights into some of civil engineering's greatest achievements, and closest shaves. She reminds us how much we rely on wind engineering: from portable toilets to space rockets, Davenport tested everything. . . . With climate change making violent storms like Sandy more common, the story of the wind wizard has never been more relevant.
Library Journal
For centuries, engineers were basically concerned only with static forces in the design of buildings, considering issues such as weight distibution and which materials could handle the stresses of the structure. As buildings started getting taller, it became apparent that the effects of wind also needed to be considered, but no one really understood how to analyze those forces. Along came Alan Davenport, who established a new field of study and became known as the father of wind engineering. Here, journalist Roberts (King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry) details Davenport's career and how he revolutionized skyscraper design by using wind tunnels. His studies provided valuable input on such famous structures as the World Trade Center, the Sears Tower, and the John Hancock Tower. VERDICT Roberts presents an engrossing history of the early stages of wind engineering. Many images enhance the story, allowing readers to see the architectural features being discussed.—William Baer, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
Kirkus Reviews
A richly drawn portrait of Alan Davenport (1932–2009), the maestro of "balancing the wind's fickle forces." Davenport was not just a wind engineer, writes freelance science journalist Roberts (King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, the Man Who Saved Geometry, 2006); "he set the agenda for investigating the effects of wind on the natural and built environments," chiefly through his path-breaking dedicated boundary layer wind tunnel. The tunnel measures the effects of wind from the earth's surface to 3,000 feet in altitude, where it is at its most turbulent, churning in eddies, or, as Roberts puts it, "marbled striations of air." This is only one example of the author's lovely way with words, her artful ability to give the mind's eye entry into difficult scientific terrain. She is at ease writing pure popular science--how Davenport put his wind tunnel to use to help understand sail design or the winds at Augusta National Golf Club's famous 12th hole--as well as the dark matter of wind correlation and buffeting theory. There is a fine introduction to the history of wind theory and limpid explanations of such phenomena as viscosity, before Roberts goes on to detail a number of Davenport's more famous projects, such as the World Trade Center, the Sears Tower, Shanghai's World Financial Center, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and Florida's Sunshine Skyway. A final chapter testifies to Davenport's forward thinking as he tackled disaster mitigation, again with his wind tunnel, using models of local topography to avoid obvious landscape traps in the event of natural disasters. A winning, enlightening investigation into wind engineering and the man who made the airwaves speak.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691151533
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/25/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,413,596
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Siobhan Roberts is a freelance science journalist who first wrote about Davenport and wind engineering for the "New York Times". She is the author of "King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry".

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Table of Contents

I Sowing Wind Science 1

II Tall and Taller Towers 32

III Long and Longer Bridges 129

IV Project Storm Shelter 183

Acknowledgments 227
Notes 229
Interview Sources 243
Glossary 245
Bibliography 251
Index 267

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